Monthly Archives: December 2009

Nerds are Unpopular?!?

Stanford University is the home of the world’s most athletic nerds. Naturally, they would ask a question like…

“Why don’t smart kids make themselves popular? If they’re so smart, why don’t they figure out how popularity works and beat the system, just as they do for standardized tests?”

For an interesting answer, check out Paul Graham’s polemic against peer persecution of smart kids in America’s middle schools and high schools, “Why Nerds are Unpopular.” I found it pretty entertaining.

White and Nerdy.

His best line:

“Officially the purpose of schools is to teach kids. In fact their primary purpose is to keep kids locked up in one place for a big chunk of the day so adults can get things done.”

I was incarcerated for 12 years and didn’t even realize it. Man, adults are too smart.

-Joel

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The Best Reason to Work at a Start-up

Several weeks ago, I visited Arista Networks with a few other members of Stanford Tau Beta Pi. A start-up founded a couple years back, Arista had the cojones to take on networking giant Cisco in the domain of high-performance 10G Ethernet switches. It sounds arcane… and it is. But those switches and the massive datacenters they support are the bedrock of the Internet and agents of the global connectivity we take for granted today.

It was an amazing opportunity; we got a personal tour of Arista’s Menlo Park offices by Silicon Valley legend Andy Bechtolsheim, who founded Sun Microsystems (Sun = “Stanford University Network”) back in 1982 and wrote a personal check for $100,000 to Larry and Sergey to get Google incorporated (that check is now worth $1.5 billion). And he’s brilliant.

Andy looks and acts the part of the mad scientist, bushy eyebrows, eyes closed, half-muttering with his forehead on his hand even as he spins technical talk into dollars before your eyes. He’s the rare type who can go on for years about the most esoteric of topics, then turn around and tell you––you being a potential investor––in the simplest of terms exactly how his company’s going to enter the market and outperform its competitors. And you can’t help but believe him.

So what’s the best reason to work for a start-up?

Free food. And brilliant people.

I walked away with a profound appreciation for the start-up culture and profound awe at the technical mastery and business acumen of Chairman Andy. The takeaway for all of us undergrads: We’ve still got a lot to learn.

Thanks for reading.

-Joel

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